Age-Related Changes in Nestling Diet of the Cooperatively Breeding Green Woodhoopoe


Andrew N. Radford, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK.


In many socially monogamous bird species, parents of altricial young respond to the increasing demands of growing nestlings by increasing their feeding rate and the size of prey items delivered and by altering the types of prey provided. In some cooperatively breeding species, similar changes in feeding rate and prey size have been documented. However, potential changes in the types of prey delivered, both as nestlings age and by different group members, remain largely unexplored. Moreover, studies rarely compare the diet fed to nestlings with that eaten by the provisioning adults themselves. Here, I show that green woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus) nestlings receive a smaller proportion of spiders and larger proportions of caterpillars and centipedes as they grow older. Both male and female adults delivered a higher proportion of spiders to young nestlings than they ate while self-feeding, probably in response to particular nutritional requirements of the chicks. However, only males altered the proportions of caterpillars and centipedes delivered, providing smaller proportions to young nestlings than eaten themselves. These prey items may be too large for young nestlings to handle, and males may make a greater adjustment in provisioning diet than females because they collect more caterpillars and centipedes than do females. Although there were sex differences in provisioning diet, there were no differences between same-sex breeders and helpers in terms of the overall proportions of prey delivered or the changes with nestling age. Hence, individuals of different reproductive status may be following the same provisioning rules, at least in terms of prey type.